Fire Starters

Boldness, clarity and wisdom for fundraising professionals

Are You Ready for Thanks Giving?

No, not the turkey and stuffing event. I’m talking about giving thanks for all of the actions your supporters are taking in the final quarter of 2015; the “givingest” time of year. Are you ready with creative, fun, this-will-get-noticed recognition, that allows your supporters to feel great when they: Give their time at your fall fundraising event Give their financial support due to your event or your appeal Attend yet another committee or board meeting Invite others to attend your fun annual meeting or building tour Share their “stuff” for your auction Or?? NOW is the time to take out your usual thank you letter and revamp it. Write using language that gets read and feels like you are talking just to ME, the reader. And, please, make sure your thank you process (phone call, letter, or in-person thank you) actually references how my gift of time or dollars or whatever I gave makes a difference to a real person. For inspiration check out the September Nonprofit Blog Carnival for some excellent ways to give thanks…in fact some of the best ideas I’ve seen on this topic! I dug around and found a few more quick reads to get your creative juices flowing. One from the Nonprofit Marketing Guide and a few from my own Fire Starters archives: 9 Clever Ways to Thank Your Donors Tips for Making Authentic, Meaningful Donor Thank You Calls Donor Thank You’s: 5 Simple Things to Do to Cause Deeper Engagement With Your Supporters How to Cause Your Donors to Feel Like...

Please Don’t Make it All About You

I believe fundraising is fulfilling the aspirations of your supporters. And then I read the copy in fundraising letters or hear speeches at fundraising events. I’m so disappointed to find the speaker or writer drone on about the organization: We did, we want, we need. The missing piece in nonprofit communications, especially when you want to share powerful stories, is to make your communication about THEM. Your listeners. Your readers. Your donors. Your volunteers. Every. Word. Choice. You. Make. Matters. To show you what I mean, here’s an excerpt from Module 2 of my Complete Storytelling System: I know you are moving at a speed faster than light to get your work done. I also know you don’t always have time to attend events or workshops to new tools and techniques. So, I’ve put what I know about nonprofit communications and sharing stories into an easy-to-follow storytelling training course. Used by hundreds, it’s helping people like YOU to raise more money. Even millions for some who follow the steps closely. I want to make sure you have all the tools you need to engage your board, raise more money and tell powerful stories that truly knock-their-socks-off! Special Limited Time Offer: Invest in the System (at just $97 for all 9 Modules!) and I’ll gift you with 3 FREE months of membership in my Ignited Fundraising Community. (Monthly webinars, live monthly coaching from me, and access to all 50 previously recorded webinars) An additional $105 value.)...

Knock-Their-Socks-Off Storytelling

The truth is sharing your stories doesn’t have to be hard or take a long time. BUT you DO have to keep in mind what makes stories truly connect with people. The most important thing stories can do is to create a feeling of EMPATHY. The definition of empathy from Merriam-Webster is: :the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions : the ability to share someone else’s Unfortunately, most often I watch people write or tell stories about their clients or donors or their volunteers and what I end up feeling is sympathy; a little sorry for them. That is NOT the kind of storytelling I teach. In fact, that is not the kind of storytelling that works. As you draft your fall appeals or your fundraising email campaign remember this: Sympathy creates distance. Empathy creates connections and feelings of understanding. Here’s a simple example: Sympathy: It was a horrific loss for Anna when her house completely burned in the fires in California. Empathy: When Anna’s 6 year-old son Adam asked for a baby picture for a school project she teared up and had to say with a painful heart, “I’m sorry honey, all of our pictures burned in the fire last year.” ____________ I’d love to see YOUR examples of shifting the language from sympathy to empathy! Share in the comments...

Multi-Channel Intel – It’s There if You Want it

This week I’m honored to share this guest post by Leigh Kessler from CharityEngine. Leigh is our September 17 guest speaker for the Ignited Fundraising Community webinar.   Guest post by Leigh Kessler I recently heard a great episode of This American Life podcast themed around the challenges faced by police officers. In one segment, a journalist named Brian Reed followed a police chief in Milwaukee who was trying to get his force to better engage the communities they were policing. First, Reed goes to a community hearing in a district where police/community engagement was done poorly. At the hearing, Reed observes an officer who, as he listens to people share their grievances and concerns, actually takes the time to write down their complaints in his notepad. But Reed later discovers the officer never shares the contents of the notebook with the rest of the force. When Reed asks why he is recording what they’re saying in his notebook, the police officer responds “so that if anyone asks about it, I can say I knew.” When Reed asks why they don’t share the info, the officer replies, “That’s just how we’ve always done it.” Reed points out how, ironically, this officer’s title was Community Liaison officer. The journalist then highlights a daily briefing he attended in another district where community engagement was actually proving successful. At this meeting, the cops were discussing their intel from residents and taking the data exchange seriously. “They updated the captain about a meeting they’d held with people who lived near the site of a recent homicide who had helped them identify 17 nuisance properties...

Storytelling and Fundraising Events

Storytelling and fundraising events go together like peanut butter & jelly. When I saw this fun infographic from Maximillion about choosing the right fundraising event for your nonprofit organization, I knew I had to share it with you. Deciding which event comes first, of course. No matter what kind of event you have, don’t forget, you ALWAYS want to find a way to incorporate a story. The sharing of your stories will cause your participants to feel more deeply connected to your mission AND take action to support your work. I’ve even got a cool resource to help you! I have a free eBook Mission Possible: Checklists for Successful Storytelling, you can download FREE! In my eBook I’ve gathered some of my favorite storytelling tips and it includes a bunch of examples for how you can include storytelling before, during, and after your fundraising...

Activity Status Updates for Your Fundraising Success

Whether you are a Fitbit activity tracker or managing an annual fundraising campaign it seems we all focus on our activity status updates. I’ve trained waitresses, restaurant owners, marketing and fundraising staff, and even public speakers. After training others for more than 30 years I know for a fact that a status update truly does help keep people on track and achieving or exceeding their goals. A Fundraising Success Matrix (download it here) is a tool I created to use when working for an extended time with a team that wants to increase their individual donor fundraising. This simple, powerful tool assists in managing the many details of making a number of changes quickly. Conversations and updates on the topics listed on this worksheet keep actions visible for up to 20 key areas of focus. The matrix often looks slightly different from organization to organization depending on their maturity, staffing and time commitment. The format for tracking can be a Word doc, Excel, Trello (a free online project management tool) or simply a white board. Key outcomes when using the matrix are: 1. Provides a built-in agenda for check-in meetings; 2. Helps the team remember what they promised; 3. Keeps the team focused on their goal and the steps to reaching it; 4. And always, always ensures the team members agree to the “by when” for their next action. Go ahead and download the worksheet or create your own. My recommendation though: don’t spend too much time ON creating or updating the matrix. Spend your time on the tasks that update the status on the matrix. That’s when you’ll...

Hurry & You Can Get Feedback on Your Year-End Appeal!

I’m giving feedback on pre-submitted fundraising appeal letters TOMORROW, August 20. My goal is to have your fall appeal stand out from the crowd this year. Here are just a few things I’ll cover on tomorrow’s webinar: The three things people read BEFORE they read your letter. How many times should you make an ask in your appeal? What’s the best use of the P.S.? How to give your letter the “you” test. If you send me a draft of your year-end appeal letter for THIS YEAR by the end of the day today (August 19). . . I’ll give you feedback on it tomorrow during my Ignited Fundraising Webinar. I’ll accept up to 5 more letters by end of business today, August 19. Send your letter to me directly and I’ll let you know how to join me for the webinar. This webinar is fun, fast-paced and packed with information about what works and what doesn’t in your mail appeal. Don’t miss this once-a-year opportunity for...

This Digital Storytelling Site Made Me Weep With Joy

Anything with the word storytelling in the title catches my eye. I’m a passionate teller of stories and a passionate teacher of how to share powerful stories. So, when I read through the blog post “Isn’t it time for a new story? Innovative approaches to nonprofit storytelling.” I was awestruck when I found a totally inspiring digital storytelling page. The folks at Volunteer Toronto have taken the to time post more than 100 stories on their Tumblr website Volunteers of Toronto. #VolunteersofTO Take a moment and visit the site and get inspired. Often I’m asked by over-worked and uninspired staff “How do we inspire donors if we don’t have any ‘good’ stories?” To me, this site is a perfect example of inviting snippets of stories from anyone and everyone: donors, volunteers, staff, families of clients, community partners. . . and more. . . to talk about your work and how it affects them. THOSE are GOOD stories. What could your organization do to capture and publish heartfelt stories too? I’m always on the lookout for more inspiration. If you’ve got a social media site with excellent storytelling, please share the link in the comments...

My Sources for Inspiration: 45+ Resources for Fundraising Professionals

I love to read. I read for both business and pleasure regularly. Which is why I’m delighted and honored to find the book I co-wrote with 7 of my esteemed colleagues:  The Essential Fundraising Handbook for Small Nonprofits made this list of the Top 20 Fundraising Books! It’s a rewarding feeling that our collaboration can be a source of knowledge and inspiration for people working in the nonprofit sector. It got me to thinking about the resources I turn to when I need inspiration, advice, or ideas.  Check out the list below for a some of my “go to” reads: I’ve also included a PDF you can download with the Resource & Source Materials list I often share at my training sessions. Any one of these would be an excellent resource to add to your “To Be Read” list. Money The Soul of Money, Lynne Twist Creating Affluence: Wealth Consciousness in the Field of All Possibilities, Deepak Chopra Rich Dad, Poor Dad – What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That The Poor DoNot!, Robert Kiyosaki and Sharon Lechter, Fundraising & Nonprofit Management Donor-Centered Fundraising: How to Hold Onto Your Donors…, Penelope Burk Prospect Research for Fundraisers. The Essential Handbook, Jennifer J. Filla, Helen E. Brown Asking: A 59 Minute Guide to Everything Board Members, Volunteers & Staff Must Know to Secure the Gift, Jerold Panas Business Linchpin, Seth Godin Switch. How to Change Things When Change is Hard, Chip Heath & Dan Heath The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work & What To Do About It, Michael E. Gerber Storytelling Complete Storytelling System, Lori L. Jacobwith...

Summer Story: Wild & Crazy Donor Recognition

I absolutely love it when an organization gets creative with their donor engagement and recognition. At Clare Housing in Minneapolis their mission is a serious one: To end AIDS in Minnesota through equitable access to housing and healthcare. Raising awareness and fundraising dollars for a serious mission doesn’t have to be dark or solemn. When done well, with fun, play, and even some whimsy the work generates action, dollars, and awareness. Annually the organization must raise nearly $600,000 from the community to close what I call their annual funding gap. The gap is the difference between what it costs to deliver their services and what they have raised to date. We are halfway through the year and that gap has closed by just over $100,000. So there’s work to be done. This summer the team at Clare Housing is working hard to recruit table hosts for their October 7, 2015 annual A Place To Call Home fundraising breakfast. The event is free, with a free meal, and a goal to inspire attendees to make a financial contribution for multiple years, preferably at $1000 or more a year. Hosting a table is a commitment. It means you find, recruit, cajole, or beg friends, colleagues, and family to join you for an inspiring hour at the event in the fall. The key to holding a financially successful event is to have at least half the guests in the room know something about the organization BEFORE they attend the breakfast. So, back to recruiting table hosts. This spring, the goal at Clare Housing was to identify & recruit up to 50 people who...

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